Tuesday, May 31, 2005

In Harmer's Way


Most of the Tulip Festival concerts that I attended, I was only really interested in seeing one of the acts that hit the stage on a given night. Showing up in time for the opening acts had been either an accident, or just didn't happen. These outdoor concerts had a curfew to deal with (must be off stage by 11:00pm) so they got started pretty early, and someone I'd never heard of playing at 6:00pm was never enough of a draw to get me out of my apartment before the headliners. Saturday, May 21, was the exception.

Wiley and Hay

Local PEI boy, Nathan Wiley, was set to play at 7:00, followed by Jeremy Fisher, then Sarah Harmer. I was very interested in getting to see all three of them, and tried hard to make it to the grounds in time for Wiley. Like so many other nights though, we walked onto the grounds just as he was finishing up his last number. In my defense, it was a pretty short set, but I was disappointed I missed him.

Jeremy Fisher

Jeremy Fisher was up next. His sound is catchy and enjoyable, although lacking originality in many respects. I'd been listening to some of his stuff for a couple months, after a friend had introduced his music to me on a long drive back to Ottawa from Windsor, Ontario in April. The car full of hung-over university students all found his mellow songs enjoyable for passing the time, and I think we probably all fell asleep to it, but that was exactly what we wanted at the time.

He is good at what he does, which is write catchy pop folk songs about how boy meets girl, and how oh-so special that can be, but this type of singer/song writer has become almost dime-a-dozen, with all of the Jack Johnson/John Mayer/Elliot Smith/and so on and so forths out there. You have to be able to do more than just sing cute songs to stand out in this saturated genre. So, yes, I do listen to his stuff on my iTunes, but his live show lacked the passion and originality that it takes to make me really fall for this type of artist and potentially buy their CD. Fisher needs to acquire a little more depth as an artist before he's more than just good music to fall asleep to while hung-over.

Sarah Harmer

Sarah Harmer, meanwhile, is a good example to look to for an example of a folky singer/song writer who sings catchy songs with depth and a unique sound. Since parting ways with Weeping Tile, which over six years later is still being toted as a "break," she's released three solo albums, most recently, All of Our Names. Her song writing is complex, melodic and dripping with emotion. Her voice can demonstrate pain, love, irony, friendship, playfulness -- all to an unmistakable T, and it's absolutely mesmerizing.

On stage Harmer strikes a balance between groovy hippie chick and Canadian folk rock goddess. Her presence is laid back and comfortable, while still full of energy. You get completely swept away in her tunes and it's a fun ride. I remember seeing Weeping Tile play an outdoor festival at the ripe old age of twelve, and absolutely loving Harmer's sound. I bought their CD, Cold Snap, and waiting in line, all bright eyed and inspired, to get it autographed by the band. Eight years later, and given the chance, I'd probably do it again.

Nathan Wiley - High/Low
Nathan Wiley - Patiently Blue
Nathan Wiley - Renegade
Sarah Harmer - Basement Apartment

Related Posts:
Tulips, Tea, and Other Alliterations
Truthfully, Truthfully, a Great Show

When Mel's not busy comparing singing frogs to Elliot Smith, she can be found on her own blog,
"me, myself, and mel"

Comments on "In Harmer's Way"


Blogger Johnny said ... (31/5/05 9:23 am) : 

I can't believe I read Jack Johnson and John Mayer in the same sentence as Elliot Smith. I am shocked and appalled! Expect a sternly worded letter in the mail.


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (31/5/05 1:49 pm) : 

ha ha ha, that was my reaction too. :D


Blogger mel said ... (31/5/05 5:08 pm) : 

I knew this would happen. All I meant to imply is that there are a lot of solo male artists out there. I hate John Mayer and love Elliot Smith as much as the next person. None of the guys I mentioned have anything on Smith. You guys are touchy.


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (31/5/05 5:44 pm) : 

Well.. wouldn't that be fitting? :)

I still think the very small outcry was your wording. Not that Smith is a Dylan or Cohen or anything, but you would never say, "all the dylan/warflowers groups out there"


Blogger mel said ... (31/5/05 5:53 pm) : 

yea, I see your point, and as I said, I knew this would happen. To be honest with you, I was scraping for a third male solo artist to name and had a brain fart, so I threw Smith in. I also meant to include the line, "This guy sure is no Elliot Smith," at the end of the paragraph above the Sarah Harmer picture, but forgot to add it in my edit.


Blogger Johnny said ... (31/5/05 9:24 pm) : 

Heya Mel, no worries. I was joking! Sternly worded letter? Ha! Everyone knows my letters are scathing and nasty. "Sternly worded letters" are for pussies.


Blogger Jay said ... (1/6/05 5:35 am) : 

Very cool that you got to go. I was really apathetic about the whole thing. I blame the weather.


Blogger Catherine said ... (1/6/05 10:12 am) : 

Can I take a moment to defend John Mayer? So he's mainstream and poppy and very recognisible, but his lyrics are heartfelt, he's not caught up in celebrity bullshit, and he's a very good guitarist (see him live). AND he's my fiance. I guess you're not invited to the wedding. So there.


Blogger mfd said ... (1/6/05 5:24 pm) : 

Wow, I'm glad I didn't make humorous reference to my hopes that Mr. Mayer would self-inflict some fatal wounds of his own. He is indeed "poppy" (so long as we're agreed that that's code for something less polite) and I'm sure he isn't caught up in celebrity bullshit, and god knows the world is in short supply of guitarists, but recognizable? The problem I have with his music (please don't confuse this with having a problem with Mr. Weiner himself) is that it is only recognizable due to the amount that it is played on lite-rock radio, and the fact that DJs on lite-rock stations never forget to ID a song. Meyer is generic, which isn't the same as bad, but for me, is the same as boring.


Blogger Catherine said ... (1/6/05 9:41 pm) : 

Sadly, I agree with mfd. Partially. I don't think Mayer is generic on his own as much as he's non-threatening enough for easy-rock, "music-to-ignore" stations to bank on him. Yes, non-threatening might equal boring to some, but you can listen to all the scary music you want and I guarantee you'll never hear Peaches on the radio. (btw, I don't think the fact that a song is played on Magic 93 makes it good.) (And good is subjective.) (And a song doesn't have to be "good" for me to like it.)
As for too many guitarists, boo-freakin'-hoo. Once dijeridoo becomes the norm for chord foundation of marketable music, I'll scorn the guitar, but until then, it's still an instrument (albeit generic - I'll give you that...) with which one can discern levels of talent.
Anyway, I'm glad mfd didn't get personal (save the suicide nod).


Blogger Casey Dorrell said ... (1/6/05 11:50 pm) : 

whoo. I think this might mark the blog's first ever "discussion" - short as it may be.


Blogger mfd said ... (2/6/05 2:23 am) : 

Don't get me wrong, I love the guitar. There is not, however, any shortage of talented guitarists. Talented songwriters, not so much.


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